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There was a shield around Finn as he was walking home from school. The shield was not made by him. There was nothing extraordinary about Finn. His best friend Ela was walking beside him, trying her best to focus on both maintaining the shield around him as well as understanding what he was signing. It was easy now that she had been doing it for almost ten years. The two of them had met when they were eight years old. She remembered pointing fingers at him and his family, eerily creepy and never apart. Remembered the whispering, the word “cult”.

“Are you sure, you can’t sleep over again today?” Ela signed to him. He shook his head resolutely, looking just as regretful as she did. Ela sighed in frustration, regretting it immediately as Finn curled in on himself, ducking his head. She hated how much he looked like he did when they first met face to face.

Ela had been visiting the store with her mother. She had just snuck away to get chocolate when she saw the small child standing in the middle of the isle looking way more lost than a child had any right to be when surrounded by sweets. So, of course, she had to ask him if he was okay. At first, she had thought that he was not talking because he was shy; then, because he simply did not like her. But thankfully, she had been a stubborn child; continued to talk to him deciding that if he wanted her to leave, he should say so. It had taken an embarrassingly long time for her to notice that he wasn’t being quiet by choice. That same day, she had told her mother quite seriously that she wanted to learn sign language and that “her mother had better learn it with her, or she would be very cross with her, forever”. It infuriated her even more when she thought about how his parents had forced him to conform to so many things he could not agree with. How they still didn’t accept his gender. How they still claimed they loved him when they had never even made the effort to try and understand their son. In her fury, Ela’s shield flickered. Focusing, she turned toward Finn and smiled softly at his enthusiasm, noticing how he had to hold himself back, so he wouldn't sign faster than she could read. Her smile faded as she noticed the taxi behind him. She locked eyes with the taxi driver. “It’s time”, they said. Ela stopped. She had known this day would come since she first saw the taxi a year ago and still, it was too early. She was not ready to say goodbye yet.

For just a second, Ela thought about ignoring the taxi. Then she looked back at Finn who was looking at her confused, clearly concerned and made her decision.

“Come on, let’s take a taxi.” She smiled. Finn’s frown deepened but he let her pull him over to the car. Ela opened the door before motioning for him to get in.

Something wasn’t quite right, Finn thought. “I’m not sure about this, Ela.”

But Ela only smiled: “Everything’s going to be alright, trust me.”

Finn did and got in. “I told you; I would get you out one day. I love you.” Ela slammed the door shut as Finn’s eyes widened.

Finn disappeared on the 16h of October at 2:38pm

© Patricia Madl 2022-08-31


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